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BYU notebook: First jersey retired in BYU hoops: #22

PROVO — While the traditional tie of former BYU basketball standout Danny Ainge to the current Cougar program will be realized Saturday night, the family ties won't be evident until next season.

Ainge will be honored in jersey-retirement ceremonies at halftime of the BYU-Colorado State game Saturday night at the Marriott Center.

"I think it's a great honor," said Austin Ainge, a redshirt freshman on the Cougar basketball team. "I think he's the best player in the university's history."

About the only thing that would make the evening any more memorable is if Danny Ainge's oldest son was playing. But Austin is sitting out his first year at BYU, having returned late this summer from an LDS Church mission to the Dominican Republic.

Austin Ainge was born in September 1981, about a half-year after his father concluded his Cougar career. The day he was born, BYU athletic director Glenn Tuckett sent the elder Ainge an actual national letter-of-intent as a gift for the newborn.

As for his father's No. 22, no one at the university or in the family has ever really asked Austin Ainge if he was interested in wearing it. During his mission, he did receive an inquiry from BYU about a possible jersey number - since Mark Bigelow was already wearing the No. 3 he preferred, he chose No. 13.

He avoided wearing his father's jersey numbers as he grew up, he said, adding that "I try to avoid the comparisons - there's enough of that already."

For now, he plans to stick with No. 13, maybe even after Bigelow concludes his senior season next year. And even with No. 22 available (remember, the jersey is being "retired," and not the number." "My dad did OK with No. 22," he said. "I don't want to curse it."

MORE SATURDAY HONORS: Besides the Ainge ceremonies, a pregame tribute will be given senior guard Travis Hansen, the only graduating Cougar.

GOT LEFTOVERS?: Unused season tickets from the 2002-03 season can be redeemed for upper-bowl tickets for Saturday night's BYU-CSU game.

MORE AINGE: Hansen and teammate Mark Bigelow were both toddlers when Ainge was making his mad, full-court dash and game-winning layup against second-seed Notre Dame in the closing seconds of the East Regional semifinals of the 1981 NCAA Tournament. But it's not like they haven't seen replays and know of its importance.

Asked if either may try to replicate the feat in Saturday night's game, both laughed off the inquiry. Said Bigelow: "I did mine in high school.

Added Hansen: "I might do that - in warm-ups."

ALL-CONFERENCE AWARDS: For the first time, media representatives will join the eight head coaches in balloting for Mountain West conference player of the year, coach of the year, freshman of the year and first- through third-team all-conference honors.

Also, coaches are allowed for the first time to vote for their own players.

The awards will be announced Monday morning in a teleconference call with media and coaches prior to next week's conference tournament.

HEADED DOWN UNDER: With NCAA teams allowed a summer foreign tour once every four years, BYU will be traveling to New Zealand and Australia Aug. 9-22 to play in exhibitions against professional teams there. The Cougars made a similar tour four years ago, playing in England, Italy and Croatia.


E-MAIL: taylor@desnews.com